Rubio baiting Cruz on immigration was months in the making

In battling over the particulars of immigration, Rubio isn’t likely to score himself any points—but that’s not his objective. “I don’t think it means anything for Rubio, but it could mean something for Cruz in that he’s handled it poorly,” Anderson said. “I think the only way to go at Cruz is to go at his genuineness or lack thereof, and the fact that everything is contrived. In that sense, I think it’s smart.”

According to sources close to the campaign, the unifying thread of Rubio’s case against Cruz won’t be immigration or national security or any single policy issue. It’ll be his perceived tendency to say different things to different audiences and an attempt to convince voters that the candidate purporting to be a straight-talking anti-establishment outsider is anything but.

On Thursday, Rubio portrayed Cruz’s position on immigration as that of a craven politician, trying to convince primary voters of his conservative credentials while leaving himself wiggle room to tack back to the center if he wins the nomination. “I think his hope was, once he got into the general election to then start talking about legalization as a way to attract voters,” Rubio said.